A Roadmap for Addressing Economic Inequality

This article originally appeared on GivingCompass.org

According to our research, over three out of every five Black households do not have enough savings to replace income at the poverty level for three months in the event of a financial emergency. This is more than three times the reality for White households.

2019 marks the 400-year commemoration of the start of African American enslavement in the land that became known as the United States. Its legacy has manifested in many ways in our country, including in the racial wealth divide, which has grown three-fold over the past 25 years.

While popular narratives often frame the racial wealth divide in terms of individual behaviors, evidence demonstrates that racial economic inequality is primarily the result of long-term investment in some communities and a lack of investment in others.

As a national intermediary we believe a key strategy for addressing financial insecurity is ensuring that people of color and the community-based organizations that serve low-wealth families are centered in decision-making processes to collectively inform and advance their own solutions to systemic problems. We also recognize that there is never a “one size fits all” approach to how we work with organizations serving communities of color. With this in mind, we build relationships with communities and rely on their perspectives to guide how we work together.

To truly address this systemic inequality, advocates and philanthropists must work in service of communities of color by ensuring they have access to the most emergent knowledge, data, and tools to help them achieve economic equity and justice for their communities.

You can join us in this movement by:

Investing in the capacity of organizations led by and serving people of color.
Organizations led by and serving people of color receive a fraction of the individual and institutional philanthropic and corporate giving (for example, in 2005: Of the $4.1 billion analyzed, just over $327 million or 8% was awarded to minority-led organizations). At Prosperity Now, we support local nonprofits of color through our Building High Impact Nonprofits of Color. These organizations are knowledgeable of the history and presence of financial and economic trauma in their affected communities and are best positioned to develop programs, advocate for policies, and share practices that are informed by the community.

Promoting a more accurate narrative.
We know that narratives have power. We challenge the prevailing narrative that working families’ struggles are a result of individual choices. In fact, many of those families are working multiple jobs, earning a degree, saving what little money they have left over at the end of the month—and continue to fall further behind. In order to promote economic equality, we use research and data from sources such as our Prosperity Now Scorecard to cast light onto the real financial challenges and realities communities face.

Supporting coalition building.
In order to truly scale this work and bridge this economic divide, national organizations must work alongside locally led organizations to reach the needs of communities and advocate for policy change at the local and state level. For example, our Prosperity Now Community brings together more than 24,000 practitioners, advocates, and researchers from nonprofits across all 50 states and the District of Columbia to build strong connections and mobilize action to create lasting social change.

We recognize that the drivers of economic injustice are complex, and that any solution must also account for this complexity. We hope that our findings in doing this work will help you begin a roadmap for your commitment towards amplifying the voices of communities of color.

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